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Bromberg, P.M. (2016). Hidden in Plain Sight: Thoughts on Imagination and the Lived Unconscious. Att: New Dir. in Psychother. Relat. Psychoanal., 10(1):1-19.

(2016). Attachment: New Directions in Psychotherapy and Relational Psychoanalysis, 10(1):1-19


Hidden in Plain Sight: Thoughts on Imagination and the Lived Unconscious Language Translation

Philip M. Bromberg, Ph.D.

The relative presence of “imagination” in human discourse overlaps to no small degree with the relative capacity for intersubjectivity that exists in any relationship. The nature of the patient-therapist relationship in analytic treatment could thus be described as a journey in which two people must each loosen the rigidity of their dissociative “truths” about self and other in order to allow “imagination” to find its shared place. As self-state permeability increases, so does openness to “state-sharing.” The co-creation of a lived, relational unconscious more and more nourishes the willingness of each person to participate in a growing sense of “we” that includes “me” and “you” as part of their individually expanded self-experiences. By living together in the enacted shadow of what is visible but not perceived, an opportunity is afforded to encounter what has been hidden in plain sight. If an analyst is emotionally and interpersonally alive as a partner while the different areas of a patient's developmental trauma are being relived safely, but not too safely, the patient's threshold for the potential triggering of affect-dysregulation is raised at the brain level. This allows their relationship greater interpersonal spontaneity and creative self-expression that is carried by an expanded sense of selfhood into the world “out there”. Through a clinical vignette, I hope to illustrate how both foreclosure and liberation of imagination shape clinical process and, in turn, its growing ability to allow “I” and “we” to coexist intersubjectively without compromising one or the other.

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